By: Veronica Streibel-May with the help of EAB staff
In honour of International Women’s Day this month the 8th of March I felt like we needed to remind ourselves of how important it is to acknowledge the differences amongst us and how we may find common ground. How an issue like gender inequality can unite us to fight together for so we may live in a better society. Alone we will accomplish nothing. Together we can raise awareness and initiate a pathway where change is encouraged instead of feared. So where do we look in times of uncertainty? Our role models. Thankfully in our EAB community we have so many. Teachers do everything they can to inspire us and have endless stories and experiences to share. The things they have to say really make you realize that the world can be brutal but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Please let reponses motivate you and trigger a wish for change. So with that being said, here are some questions I posed to them regarding their perspectives on gender equality:
Can you name and describe an event in your life or professional career where you have been treated unfairly because you are a woman/man?
“One event that comes to mind was when Ms. Bree was being treated in a condescending manner by an airline employee. The most glaring example was when the man called her “baby.” The moment I arrived, the man’s demeanor changed completely and he became much more respectful in his tone and posture. It was a clear example where a woman is treated a certain way in a stressful situation and the man is treated differently. I handled the situation by sternly showing my disapproval with the man’s behavior. I am sure my size helped a bit. I don’t think there is anything I could have changed in the exchange but the episode did reinforce with clarity the difference in how men and women are treated in society. “ – David Bair
“In sports, men have always been treated better than women. That is a fact but there have been positive changes. In the United States, there have been advancements since the Educational Amendments of 1972 when Title XI was passed as a federal civil law. The life of an Athletics Director in Mexico for multiple years opened my eyes to situations of ‘machismo’ actions. Also, here in Brazil, I can see these ‘machismo’ acts sometimes in the culture. I can also see improvements being made in Brazil as opposed to other countries (Women’s Soccer on equal pay). I do not support this ‘machismo’ culture and there is needed room for improvement.” – John Powell
When I was 18 back in 1998, and only 10 days away from my final Big 4 after a lifetime at Graded, I sustained a severe knee injury in a scrimmage that ruined my soccer career. A defining moment that brought to light the patriarchy in Brazil was when my mom took me to the ER at one of the best hospitals in all of Latin America, and the doctor that saw me told my mom “Well of course she got injured. What were you thinking in allowing her to play a man’s sport?” My mom and I were both furious. She was caught off guard but told him that women were allowed to play soccer too. She later filed a complaint at the hospital. To be honest, I have no idea what came of it, but my mom was always planting showing me how women are powerful. Another instance was when I coached girls futsal at Graded. My girls futsal team won five gold consecutive medals at Big 4, in the most exhilarating and challenging games. However, after the second victory, I questioned the fact that they only allowed the girls to play on the smaller court (the one used for volleyball) instead of on the big court where the boys played. I also questioned why the boys’ games were always the last games of the tournament. They responded that the girls were unable to run for as long as boys on the big court, and that the boys’ games were more fun and engaging thus should be the final game of the tournament. Luckily, I had several other women coaches who put up a fight with me and for girls in general. We argued that not only were the girls’ games more entertaining, but that girls had the same, if not more, determination and stamina than the boys. Needless to say, we won! We got what we wanted. All futsal teams got to play on the big court and the final game alternated yearly between boys and girls. Mind you, that wasn’t that long ago. I’m talking 2010. But every small victory we get is a step in the right direction.” -Biana Bree
When he would do “normal” activities with his kids like going to the park or playground, he would be complemented by others who saw him as an amazing dad (not to say that he wasn’t but they would go out of their way to applaud him).They would say things like “you’re such a good dad”. His wife on the other hand never received any comments of the sort. People expect a woman to do motherly things however when a dad does the exact same thing people are surprised and feel the need to almost congratulate this action. -Summary from Andrew Jones
“Yes, in my very early days as a school leader, I applied for a new job while I was on maternity leave with my son. At the interview I was asked multiple questions about how I would “manage my work” now that I was a young mother. They even asked me how I thought it would look to the wider school community, if the Board employed a working mother. I did not get the job and I still believe that the fact that I was a woman and a mother went against me. An older man got the position.
I did actually contact a Women’s Rights representative within the union I belonged to. She guided me through a process, where I made a complaint about the questions I was asked at the interview. The outcome of my complaint was an apology from the interviewers and a commitment to do some gender equity training. It was really hard to do this, as at the time I worked in a small city, and I was criticised by others for complaining. However I am really glad that I did stand up for myself and hopefully other women who might face this situation.” -Lesley Tait
“Yes I have been treated unfairly because I am a woman. In the previous school I worked in they wanted to decrease the number of physical education teachers, at that time there were 5 male teachers and I was the only woman. When choosing who would be let go, I was the one chosen. Their reason for it is because I had a husband that could financially support me so I didn’t have to work. If I was a man I wouldn’t have been fired.” – Simone Keller
Do you feel that you have to perform a certain way to meet society’s standards of a man? Are you “allowed/ not allowed” to do certain things. Please give examples.
“I think there is a certain expectation of how a man is supposed to act, especially in Brazil. I honestly don’t think about it much, however, and go about my life without thinking much about society’s standards for me.” -David Bair
“I feel that it is my responsibility in my family life to provide. My wife does not currently work, but that is her decision. She will work again someday and then it could be her time to provide for the family and maybe I don’t work. There is an equally shared understanding. There are not many, if any, things that I am “not allowed” to do being a man. This is the truth.” -John Powell
“Again, I’m thankful that in the different stages of my life, I’ve mostly felt encouraged to be the way I am instead of conforming to gender norms. Actually, I’ve always appreciated the fact that Mr. Jones and I exhibit many traits that might not normally be associated with our gender and I like the example that this sets for our kids. I have to say that I do worry a bit because while we can control the messages they get at home, we’re not in control of the messages they get from the world. I remember when we signed Eliza up for after-school activities and she could choose ballet or futebol, but not both. There were all boys at futebol and all girls at ballet. We signed her up for futebol outside of school, but even there, she’s played for 4 years and never has played with another girl. When she joined in a game at a birthday party once, there were boys who made fun of the way she played or laughed when she made a mistake. She’s a tough kid but I worry that many girls would see all this and just think it wasn’t worth it, that it’s easier to conform instead of challenge a system that’s not set up to do things a certain way.” -Erin Kahle
“Absolutely. I have felt it numerous times in my lifetime. Walking alone on streets is worrisome because I am a woman. Walking in the dark is worrisome because I am a woman. Paying attention to my surroundings because I am a woman is necessary. Granted, I was raised in a large city, São Paulo, and the violence has always been significantly higher than in other areas. However, I always had to watch my back since I was a young girl. When I was 14 and walking home from school, a man from a construction site began following me up the street. He began harassing me and saying the most horrendous things to me. I knew that if I tried to outrun him, he would beat me because he was simply built differently than me. I ignored him, never once looked at him, held my backpack ready to swing at him if needed, and once I got in the linesight of the building complex I lived in, I began running. I knew at that point that the guards at the complex would see me and hear me if he continued harassing me. Clearly from that day on, I had to take the long way home instead of the shorter way due to the fear of that man. Once the construction was done and he was gone, I was able to start taking the shortcut again. The fear I felt at the moment, and the anger I felt afterwards were intense.” -Bianca Bree
No, because teaching English is seen more as a female role so he’s a minority as male. They see it as an advantage when they find a guy to teach a humanities based subject. Socially it’s been a mixed bag because he likes sports- like a typical man. It wasn’t cool to like poetry as a male so he stood out but his athleticism balanced it out so he still felt society accepted him. -Summary from Andrew Jones
3. Does your gender have an impact on the relationship between your personal and professional life? If so, in what ways?
“I actually think this has been the most significant challenge of gender in my life, which is navigating the balance of professional duties along with those involved in raising children. Even in a progressive society, the majority of women end up taking on more of the household and child-related duties while also having the same demands in the workplace. I’m not trying to throw Mr. Jones under the bus. I actually think he’s better than most men in terms of contributing to the household and childcare, but I think there are also a lot of unconscious influences that require a lot of work in a relationship to actually make this division equal.” -Erin Kale
“Yes in some ways. When my children were younger, I still tended to take on more of the domestic chores and parenting than my husband. This certainly put a lot of pressure on how well I could balance my work and home life.” -Lesley Tait
“Absolutely. I had to give up coaching which was my all time favorite thing to do. Now, in choosing to have kids I knew I would have to give up certain activities at school. I was heavily involved and invested in extracurricular activities. I gave them up willingly in order to spend time with my kids and watch them grow. But I have also been heavily criticized that I should have hired a nanny to watch them so that I could continue coaching. I understand that, but I did not have children for someone else to raise them. I chose to have children so that I could raise them and be involved in their lives. At some point, when they are more self sufficient and maybe not as interested in hanging out with me (in their teenage years) I would like to go back to coaching. I understand men questioning my choice, but several women were also not able to understand why I made that choice.” -Bianca Bree
4. What have you personally done to advance gender equality?
“Throughout my life and my career, I have been aware of gender equality and the need for girls to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that in a school, on a team, or in a community, that their voices are heard and their rights as equal members of society are adhered to. Though I believe deeply in gender equality, I can’t point to one specific instance when I advanced gender equality. I hope, however, that my actions over time have shown the women and girls around me and under my leadership that they are valued equally.” -David Bair
“In my profession thus far I have hired more women coaches each year in the programs I have been in or am involved in. I have fairly allocated practice facilities, game scheduling, equipment requests, and support on tournament trips to make sure gender equality is fulfilled in the athletic program I lead. I have raised my personal education on diversity and gender equality by attending seminars on these topics, reading the latest trends in athletics across the world and simply standing up for what I believe is correct on how to treat women and others.” -John Powell
“I really try to lift up other women within our profession. Women often seem to need someone else to tell them that they should apply for certain positions etc, whereas men tend to have no trouble putting themselves forward for anything going. I try and make it my business to coach and guide other women, so that they build their personal self-confidence.” -Lesley Tait
“I address gender equality constantly with my children in an attempt to teach them that they have equal rights regardless of their gender. I question and confront situations, oftentimes in front of them, always respectfully, but show them that they can question things and work towards fair treatment. In the class I teach and through service projects, we address human rights, but oftentimes gender issues are addressed too since women are still fighting for equal rights.” -Bianca Bree
He has high expectations for his daughter and what he wants the world to be for her. In addition to this he feels he has a balanced relationship with his wife where they share duties and responsibilities equally. He also coached turkish girls basketball and these girls were actively disobeying their fathers by playing sports. Being an english teacher it has also allowed him to push people to see different points of view. These initiate conversation which he feels is a crucial step. -Summary from Andrew Jones
“I believe that just by working in this area is already a big step into gender equality. At school I coached boys teams, and at NR I was one the first female coaches in volleyball. When I was a referee I was also one of the only women at the time. When coaching I always tried to reinforce the girls at school to join the teams, I organized tournaments and events for them, and always tried to make sure they were heard and happy when playing a sport. I believe that by being present in this area and showing other women that anything is possible is a big step into gender equality.” -Simone Keller
5. If you could give advice to young women, what would you tell them?
“As the father of two young girls, I think the advice that we give is not advice per se, but more of giving a constant message that they are valued, equal, and should not take a backseat to any male simply because he is a male. The more the parents, but especially the fathers, of girls give that message and live that truth, the more society will change towards gender equality.” -David Bair
“I would tell young women to continue to fight for what they feel is fair in life. Fight with the understanding that you are trying to be treated as equal as young men, not better nor worse. Those that understand this movement will be able to have a conversation – use those people as a resource. Those are not able to understand this movement – use your education to open their eyes as best as possible. The world is not man’s or woman’s. It is ours and we need to continue to move in the direction to share it together!” -John Powell
“Always think of yourself and put yourself forward as an equal to men. Don’t hold back. If you see inequality, speak up!” -Lesley Tait
“Stand up for yourself and others. Clearly there are moments when we need to back down somewhat in order to avoid serious injuries or situations such as the one when the guy followed me home. However, standing up for ourselves and others is essential in teaching others that we are strong and that we have equal rights.” – Bianca Bree
Both genders need to understand that there is no playbook. Both need to realize that gender doesn’t define anything and you can create your own path. Guys can’t be threatened or feel as if supporting feminism hurts them. The message for men: equality is better for you too- it’s freeing. -Summary from Andrew Jones